Air Force Distinguished Service Medal

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Air Force Distinguished Service Medal
Air Force Distinguished Service Medal.png
TypeMilitary medal
Awarded forExceptionally meritorious service in a duty of great responsibility
Presented byUnited States Department of the Air Force[1]
EligibilityUnited States Air Force airmen and United States Space Force guardians
StatusCurrently awarded
Established6 July 1960
First awarded30 November 1965
Air Force Distinguished Service ribbon.svg
Service ribbon
Next (higher)Department of Defense: Defense Distinguished Service Medal
Department of Homeland Security: Homeland Security Distinguished Service Medal
EquivalentArmy: Distinguished Service Medal
Navy and Marine Corps: Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Coast Guard: Coast Guard Distinguished Service Medal
Next (lower)Silver Star Medal

The Air Force Distinguished Service Medal (AFDSM) is a military decoration of the United States Air Force and United States Space Force and is presented to airmen and guardians to recognize distinguished and exceptionally meritorious service to the United States while serving in a duty or position of great responsibility. The Air Force Distinguished Service Medal was created by an act of the United States Congress on July 6, 1960 and was first awarded in 1965. Prior to the creation of the Distinguished Service Medal in 1960, United States Air Force airmen were awarded the Army Distinguished Service Medal.[2]

The Air Force Distinguished Service Medal is equivalent to the Army's Army Distinguished Service Medal, Navy and Marine Corps' Navy Distinguished Service Medal, and the Coast Guard Distinguished Service Medal.

The interpretation of the phrase "great responsibility" means that this medal is generally awarded only to officers who hold at least the rank of major general. However, as is customary for most military decorations, the requirements for the Distinguished Service Medal are interpreted more liberally when awarded upon retirement. As a result, it is the typical decoration for a retiring brigadier general, and in recent years it has also been awarded to the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force upon retirement. Cases of the award of this decoration to an individual who was not a general officer, or the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, are unusual.[3] Two notable exceptions are astronauts Colonel Buzz Aldrin and Colonel David Scott (who flew on Gemini 8, Apollo 9, and Apollo 15) who was awarded the medal twice.[4][5]

Recipients during the medal's first 6 years included General Emmett E. "Rosie" O'Donnell Jr. (a United States Air Force four-star general who served as Commander in Chief, Pacific Air Forces from 1959 to 1963). O'Donnell also led the first B-29 Superfortress attack upon Tokyo during World War II after the 1942 Doolittle Raid. Another early recipient of the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal was Major General Osmond J. Ritland, USAF, who received his medal on November 30, 1965, upon his retirement.[6]

Additional awards are denoted with oak leaf clusters.[2]

This award is comparable to the Department of the Air Force Decoration for Exceptional Civilian Service given to civilian employees of the Department of the Air Force.

Notable recipients[]

See also[]


  1. ^ "Production publication" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-01-27. Retrieved 2018-01-10.
  2. ^ a b Air Force Personnel Center Air Force Distinguished Service Medal Archived 2011-06-17 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Fact Sheet: Air Force Distinguished Service Medal". Air Force Personnel Center, Randolph Air Force Base. Archived from the original on December 29, 2010.
  4. ^ "Awards and Citations of Buzz Aldrin". Magazine. Military Times/Gannett. Archived from the original on 29 June 2013. Retrieved 13 April 2013.
  5. ^ "Astronaut Bio: David Scott".
  6. ^ "Major General Osmond J. Ritland Inducted 1989" (PDF). Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers. Air Force Space Command. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-22.
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